The Santa Barbara Guide
Santa Barbara (where GP went to college, briefly) is such a jewel of a little city. We go there as much as possible, and thought our guide needed a little refresher. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara area is fast becoming a wine destination with the Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez Valleys, and Santa Rita Hills all offering different microclimates that produce distinctive grape varietals. It’s definitely a region to go exploring for great new wines to try. Some standouts—including Sea Smoke, pictured above—included.
Backyard Bowls3849 State St., La Cumbre | 805.569.0011
Wise people say that everything tastes better in either bowl or smoothie form, which is the abiding philosophy here: Specializing in hot porridge, acai bowls, and every manner of smoothie, this is one of those cheerful joints that entirely revolves around starting days right. They're onto something too, since it's booming: There are now four outposts across California, including a second outpost in Santa Barbara.
Juice Ranch33 Parker Way, Lower State | 805.845.4657
Juice Ranch checks all the boxes when it comes to doing juice right. It's bottled in glass, cold-pressed, and organic, making it the go-to in Santa Barbara for great greens juices and delicious almond milk based drinks.
Santa Barbara Public Market38 W. Victoria St., Downtown | 805.770.7702
This goldmine of a gourmet market, which just celebrated its first birthday, is comprised of individual artisanal vendors specializing in local and sustainably-sourced fare. This means that it's essentially set up like the perfect pantry: There’s organic produce at Foragers Pantry, the freshest loaves at Crazy Good Bread, and humanely-raised meats at Belcampo. As far as prepared foods go, Flagstone Pantry serves up lunchtime basics like soups, salads, and sandwiches while Empty Bowl is all about steamy noodle bowls and handmade dumplings.
C’est Cheese825 Santa Barbara St., Downtown | 805.965.0318
This compact little shop stocks varieties from all over the world, as well as the gourmet accoutrements (jams, nuts, charcuterie) that take any cheese platter from good to transcendent. For a quick breakfast of fresh-baked pastry and coffee or a hearty lunch stop by the adjoining cafe (get the grilled-cheese). What’s more, they offer pro-hosted classes ranging in topic from ideal cheese-and-honey pairings to the basics of cake decorating.
Handlebar Coffee128 E. Canon Perdido St., Downtown
If Santa Barbara is Mecca for cycling enthusiasts, then Handlebar Coffee Roasters is their temple. The owners, ex-competitive cyclists Aaron Olson and Kim Andersen, took up coffee roasting (using a vintage Probat roaster, no less) after the recession put their cycling careers on hold. Fast forward a few years and their creamy capps, cold brews, and killer almond-milk lattes have made their tiny coffee shop the go-to rest stop for riding groups (the wall outside is never without a stack of bikes) and pretty much anyone looking for a quality cup of a coffee and a low-key place to enjoy it.
The French Press1101 State St. & 528 Anacapa St., Downtown
Prepare for a little bit of a line at these popular Santa Barbara coffee spots (there are two very close to each other, to accommodate overflow): Besides great almond milk lattes and machiatos, they serve some pretty mean (and gigantic) Rice Krispies Treats.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams728 State St., Downtown | 805.324.4402
Founded in Santa Barbara by a husband and wife team more than 70 years ago, McConnell's still uses many of the same farms and purveyors they did when they first began. You’ll find flavors ranging from sea salt cookies and cream to lemon and marionberry, as well as top-notch traditional flavors like mint chip and vanilla bean. If you can’t make it to this shop, you can find pints in many upscale grocery stores, and also at LA outposts in Studio City and Downtown LA.